An Interview with Pop-Up Fitness Founder Olivia Cooney

By Jessamy Baldwin

Guernsey girl Olivia Cooney is taking the international fitness scene by storm – and she’s just getting started. The former London party girl turned personal trainer/entrepreneur has already trained stars such as Katherine Jenkins, the girls from Little Mix, Amy Willerton and Made in Chelsea’s Kimberley Garner. She’s trained Vogue models in Amsterdam and has more recently partnered with Bootea on a summer ‘body plan’ project. With her Pop-Up Fitness company going from strength to strength over the past few years, the sky’s the limit for the 26-year-old from ‘the rock’.

After finishing school, Olivia Cooney jumped headfirst into the undeniably cut-throat, arguably glamorous world of PR in London – she was living the high life! Or, so it seemed.

“It was literally my job to take A-list celebrities out to bars, clubs and restaurants –
One night I had to take Beyonce out, which was pretty amazing. But, after a while I realised it wasn’t the kind of lifestyle I wanted. I wasn’t feeling good in myself, healthy or fulfilled. Something wasn’t sitting right in my gut.”

A few days after her lightbulb moment, Olivia quit her job, packed her bags and booked a one-way ticket out of the UK. Everything had changed in her mind.

“I explored Thailand, India and Bali and soon found myself organising my own mini retreats out there. There was no partying or backpacking for me, instead I spent my time climbing volcanos, working out on beaches and spent three months at a Muay Thai camp. I absolutely fell in love with the feeling of tip top health and fitness.

“When I got back to London, I wanted to maintain that sense of energy and fulfilment. One day a junk email came through my inbox about studying to be a personal trainer, basically to entertain them and make them the perfect In home personal training sessions and something inside me just clicked. I knew that’s what I wanted to do with my life.”

Sports have always been an integral part of the now-fitness-guru’s life however – a passion she fostered at The Ladies’ College in Guernsey and later at Millfield School in Somerset.

“I was never academic at school but I was good at athletics and netball. I used to play tennis for Guernsey with Heather Watson who is still a very close friend of mine.”

Digging out her old contact book, Olivia started to pitch personal training sessions to former PR clients and they went for it without hesitation. “I trained Katherine Jenkins and Kimberley Garner in the early days, which was a great launch pad for me.”

“I then found the property we host the retreats at in Ibiza by chance on a family holiday. At that point I had been a person trainer for three years and was ready to take my career a step further. The villa has tennis courts, an astro-turf football pitch attached to it, it’s surrounded by beautiful hills, it’s a couple of minutes walk to the beach and has enough room to sleep 18 people comfortably.

“I thought to myself: “This is how celebrities live; workouts on the football pitch in the morning, a chef to cook whatever you like, great running and hiking paths along the coast lines and the freedom and choice to reward yourself with a luxury lounger at an exclusive beach club”. Instantly I knew that this was the lifestyle I wanted to make accessible for everyone. Fabulous fitness, beautiful clean food combined with ultimate luxury for one week.”

When Olivia had the idea for Pop-Up, she quickly realised there wasn’t anything similar in the health and fitness market.

“People seemed to either be going on these military style retreats where their food was restricted and they were being pushed to their absolute limits. Or, they’d go on holiday and indulge, drink champagne, do yoga and relax. I thought: why don’t we combine the two and keep things interesting?

“I really wanted to give people a luxury experience, where they could feel like a celebrity for a week.”

The bespoke retreats now take place across the world, in glamorous destinations including Ibiza, South of France, Switzerland and Mauritius. They combine high-intensity, bootcamp style training with pilates, hiking and yoga. Translation: there’s something for everybody! Kettle bells, battle ropes, boxing and TRX and are thrown into the mix to give you a completely varied workout.

Pop-up fashion stalls, live DJ’s for the workouts and top-notch ‘clean’ dining are also part of the experience. The retreats also complimentary injury prevention, physiotherapy and relaxation massages.

“The retreats have a very relax, friendly atmosphere where my guests receive personal attention and gentle encouragement, rather than drill-sergeant discipline,” she says.

“Our desire is for all of our clients, male and female, of all ages attending, to leave feeling fantastic and not feeling beaten up as if they have been at an army style boot camp.  The decision of how much you participate in is completely up to you.”

Above all, Olivia says “fitness shouldn’t be too serious”.

Our motto is “work hard and reward well”.

“Pop-Up Fitness is definitely not about enforcing a military style of fitness or all solely about weight loss or anything like that. More than anything, I want to make people enjoy working out and incorporate health and fitness in a way that is unique and exciting.”

She says she gets “a real kick out of helping people achieve their goals”.

“I think fitness needs to be fun because if you’re not enjoying it, you’re not going to stick at it and that’s no use to anybody.”

“There are so many different types of workouts out there – so you will find something you enjoy. For me, I love boxing the most because my mind feels constantly engaged, meaning I don’t get distracted. I’m improving a skill rather than slogging it just for the calories.  You also can’t beat a good playlist to bring up the mood, so invest in some time with Spotify and watch yourself go from 0-60.”

Fitness today is more of a lifestyle, she adds. “We all want to look and feel our best and it’s about giving time to yourself too. I tell my clients to set dates with themselves. So Thursday we will do ‘X workout’ and it’s going to be about making you feel good.”

I ask her the main thing she’s learnt from launching her own company and changing career paths. Her answer? “Stop procrastinating!”

“Everyone is far too serious about starting a business. I never had a solid business plan or brand to begin with. I had an idea and a passion for what I wanted to achieve and I just went with it. Honestly, if you have an idea for something, just to do it. Things will fall into place along the way but if you spend too much time planning, you’ll never get started because it will all just seem too big and scary.”

Olivia now lives in Amsterdam with her Dutch fiancé Bart Van Maanen – who also helps run Pop-Up alongside his modelling career.

“Amsterdam is my new favourite place in the world, alongside Bali. But Guernsey is up there too!

“I love Guernsey so much and I always will. I try to go back every August and at Christmas. It’s such an amazing place and I’ve still got lots of friends who live there. I’d love to bring a Pop-Up event to Guernsey one day. I think there is definitely room for more fitness related events, bootcamps and concepts in Guernsey.”

Her daily routine is pretty hectic, but she seems to love it.

“My routine will vary according to how early my first client is, but on a typical day my alarm will go off at 5am so I am up and ready for my first client at 6am. I then have my cup of tea and listen to my latest motivational tune. I’m loving ‘All night’ by Chance The Rapper (feat. Knox Fortune) at the moment.

By 8am she will have made breakfast and “enough green juice to last anybody else a week”. The rest of the day is spent working on her business, responding to emails, doing interviews and going to meetings. She’ll also fit in at least three more clients across the day – each with a bespoke fitness plan.

“I have to be on top of all of it,” she says.

And at just 26, with a thriving business to her name, Olivia seems to be doing just that!

Follow Pop-Up Fitness on Instagram @popup_fitness or check out the website

Upcoming retreats:


September 7th – 10th Grand Hotel Park, Gstaad Switzerland

September 16th – 23th, Mauritius


April 14th – 21st, Ibiza

April 21st – 28th, Ibiza

August (TBC) – Ston Easton Park, UK

Get to know Olivia!

Describe your perfect day off: No morning alarm, lazy breakfasts, a boat trip on the Amsterdam canals and going out for dinner with my new fiancé!  There would definitely be a workout in there but finished off with a glass of champagne.

Favourite meal: It is a bit of a naughty one but when you have quinoa/spinach pasta it’s not so bad but … all day every day tuna pasta or if I’m at a restaurant steak tartar.

Favourite TV show: Bear Grylls

Favourite movie: Water for Elephants

Favourite book: The Power of Now  by Eckhart Tolle

Favourite quote: “People can buy your suits, but they can’t wear them like you can”


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